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Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God? Part 2

By Rev. Aaron Messner - Window on the World - February 14, 2016

For those of you who weren’t here last week, we are introducing a new occasional element in our evening service that we are calling, “Window on the World.” The purpose of this “window,” is to briefly consider an event or issue that is occupying a prominent place in our culture. The goal is to try and provide some succinct reflection on a contemporary issue in a way that will strengthen and aid our ability to think about our world from a Biblical perspective.

This week we continue to look at the question, “Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?” This question has been raised to a new level of public consciousness as a result of former Wheaton College professor, Larycia Hawkins’ recent public claim that Muslims and Christians are both “people of the book” and “both worship the same God.” This claim by Dr. Hawkins, led to an extensive investigation by Wheaton’s administration and resulted in the college and Dr. Hawkins arriving at a mutual agreement to part ways.

Last week we looked at the question from a linguistic perspective. That is, is it acceptable and appropriate for Arabic speaking Christians and Muslims to both refer to God as Allah? I argued that it is both historically and theologically appropriate for Arabic speaking Christians to refer to God as Allah, but that, in and of itself, this does not imply that Christians and Muslims are worshipping the same God.

This week we want to look at the question from a Biblical and theological perspective. What does the Bible actually say about the matter proper? For starters, I want to say that it is important to think Biblically and theologically before we think missiologically. To say it more simply, theology must come before missions. We must labor to determine what is true about God according to the Scripture and then labor to determine the best ways to communicate this truth. This is important because it seems to me that many involved in the debate begin with the missiology question and ask what would be the best way to build bridges to Muslims which could open the doors for fruitful evangelism and then they let those categories determine what they can or should say about God. I think this is a serious error. Next week we will consider in more detail, questions of missiology, that is “How should we actually speak to Muslims about the gospel of Jesus Christ.” But tonight we are trying to answer an “in-house” question, as Christians we need to determine for each other, do we worship the same God as Muslims?

I said last week that I think the answer to this question is “No.” So then, what is the argument for saying that Muslims and Christians do worship the same God? The core argument is that since Christians claim to worship one God and Muslims claim to worship One God, and since physical creation, the Bible and the Koran all point to the existence of one and only one God, then they must all be worshipping the same God. This claim is then further supported by the two faiths shared history, that is, they both claim the same historical figures. Both claim to worship the God of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, David, many of the Prophets and Jesus himself. Given these shared historical reference points, many conclude, “of course we are claiming to worship the same God, it is the God of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, David and the Prophets.” Even if we end up saying very different things about this God, it seems incontrovertible that we are both referring to the same deity.

What does the Bible say to this? The Bible is clear there is only one God. We see this again and again in the Scriptures. To quote one verse, Isaiah 45:5 declares, "I am the Lord and there is no other, besides me there is no God." And yet what is alluded to in the OT and becomes abundantly clear in the NT, is that this One God exists in three distinct persons, while yet remaining One unified God. At the heart of this triune claim is the claim that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God. He is fully divine and is Himself God. (John 1:1, Colossians 1 and 2.) In addition to this claim about the full divinity of Jesus, the Bible also claims that faith in Jesus Christ is the only way that a person can be saved (Acts 4:12), and the Bible teaches that faith in Christ is the only way that one can come to know and worship the God the Father at all (John 14:6 no one comes to the Father, but by me). What is more the Bible makes it very clear that to reject Jesus as the Christ and Son of God, is to necessarily reject the Father. The key verses here are 1 John 2:22 ff. “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whosoever confesses the Son has the Father also."

These verses (and many others) make it clear that Jesus is not simply a way to know God better, as if the monotheism of modern day Judaism and Islam is good and true as far as it goes, but if you want a deeper and fuller understanding of God it requires that you move into Christian Trinitarianism with an affirmation of Jesus as God. No, these verses say very clearly, that if you want to know God at all, you must affirm the Father and the Son. If one rejects Jesus as God, according to the New Testament, one is not truly worshipping God at all. It is not that one’s worship is real but incomplete, it is that one’s worship is false, regardless of what one believe to be taking place.

It is beyond any argument or controversy that Islam openly rejects the Trinity and the deity of Jesus. From the very beginning of Islam, the Koran and all subsequent Islamic teaching called the worship of Jesus blasphemy. What we believe is essential doctrine to knowing God in any way (deity of Christ), Muslims reject as antithetical to knowing God in truth.

It seems to me we are forced to conclude as Christians that although we share claims of monotheism, and we share claims to the same historical figures, at the end of the day, the Bible says that Muslim worship of Allah is not just incomplete worship, but it is utterly false worship, it is the worship of AntiChrist, because it rejects the divinity of the Son, Jesus Christ. It’s reference point is not the God of the Bible.

Now, we still need to discuss the most effective ways for communicating the gospel to Muslims. It is probably not most effective, by opening the conversation trying to convince Muslims that we do not worship the same God. This question is not an effective evangelistic ice breaker. However, it is helpful for Christians to have the matter settled in their own mind, which allows us to fence out evangelistic approaches which seek to establish common worship as the ground for fruitful evangelism. May the Lord grant us grace and opportunity to hold fast to the truth, and to present that truth it in the most faithful and winsome ways that we can.

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